Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Alter of Perfection

By: Mikaila Gawryn
Outreach Associate

Asparagus: Slightly Mushy

This was my paramount thought last night as I pushed my plate back. I had prepared a meal for some friends as an act of love, one part of my Lenten practice.

When I set out to cook a meal for someone else once a week during Lent I had not considered that the process might be difficult. Lent is a time for sharing acts of love and upon reflection I considered how I might act in loving ways through my food choices. I deeply enjoy eating, preparing and sharing food. And I enjoy it even more when that food is farmed, produced, distributed and served in ways the bring healing and peace to God's creation and her people. (Check out one of my favorite organizations doing this work, the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, by clicking above.)

I decided I would try to use fresh, local, organic and sustainable foods, so as to offer a gift of love to my community, and to the earth that would provide the ingredients. After I had come up with that idea I assumed enjoying a meal with friends once a week would be full of blessings. It has been surprisingly difficult.

The greatest surprise has been my own habit of critiquing. For example: While I'm picking produce I worry that I won't be purchasing enough (I'm new to cooking for groups). While I'm cooking I worry that I'll burn the fish, or cook the asparagus for too long. Last night I chided myself when I forgot to let the garlic heat in olive oil prior to adding vegetables.

What if we have to eat raw garlic?!?!
I thought.

The real question should have been "Why am I so wrapped up in the perfection of a sauteed root vegetable?"

My anxiety about giving a not-exactly-perfect gift kept me from thinking about the process of giving as an act of love. The outcome was a slightly less than gourmet menu, however one that was full of love:

Asparagus: Slightly Mushy
Halibut: A Bit Dry
Hearty Bread and Fruit Salad: Loved By All
For more info on how I chose these products click the above links.

The cooking and dining experience this week reminded me of something that David Dompke once said at Earth Ministry's 2005 Celebration of St. Francis. He was speaking of environmental work and progress, and shared the following suggestion: "Do not sacrifice the good on the alter of the perfect." His words reminded me that we are only human.

Whether offering a small gift of love, like a home-made meal, or working toward changing huge environmental realities like global climate change we can offer our gifts, and trust that God will fill in the holes. For me this means mentally letting go of mushy asparagus or slightly undercooked garlic, and acknowledging the value in giving a gift, even when it is not perfect.


Jessica said...

i think this is a wonderful lent practice. i also think it's pretty interesting that we both enjoy cooking, preparing, sharing and eating food very much - maybe something in the home? HA :) who knows

Elizabeth Douglas Obreza said...

This post really speaks to me! God's doesn't expect our gifts to be perfect; He expects them to be given with love and intent. I'm also hard on myself when meals I prepare for others don't turn out, but I need to love the experience of gift-giving all the same! Thanks for your thoughts :)